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Dream Teams: The Heart and Head of The Owenbys



Havas Chicago’s creative duo and married couple, Jane and Jared Owenby, share the secrets of a fulfilling creative and personal union, writes LBB’s Ben Conway

Dream Teams: The Heart and Head of The Owenbys

Jane and Jared Owenby are a senior art director and senior copywriter, respectively, at Havas Chicago. As the shared surname suggests (no, it’s not a wild coincidence) they got married in 2018 and enjoy both a professional and personal partnership together. When they’re not making ads together, they’re making music, taking photos, exploring the wilderness with their dog or adding to their never-ending list of ‘ideas we should definitely do someday’.

After spotting each other at the Creative Circus in 2014 - and, admittedly, a little bit of Facebook stalking on Jane’s end - the pair spent a year as casual workplace acquaintances, admiring each other’s work (and each other) from a distance before finally being paired up for their first project in 2015. “We clicked immediately, both creatively and personally,” says Jared. “We were just on the same wavelength in terms of what we thought was cool, what we wanted to create, and how we wanted to do things. It was refreshing and exciting because it was easy to communicate thoughts and half-baked ideas. I didn’t feel nervous to say something stupid or have a disagreement about something. We got each other right off the bat.”

Despite having differences in their personalities and approaches to problem-solving, Jane also notes that the chemistry was there from the start, and quickly spilt over into their personal lives. “We’d have class together and then immediately go to Smith’s Old Bar in Atlanta to continue talking over chicken fingers and PBRs. We were solving problems together and truly having a great time. We made a ton of work in the next year, and I don’t think we would’ve been as motivated to create if we hadn’t been motivated to spend time together, too. We began dating almost immediately after that first project.”

After a year, the developing duo - and budding romantics -  were offered an internship at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners - a chance to test their teamwork in the ‘real world’. Since then, every major career move has been made together as a unit. “And yes, we’ve interviewed together, Step Brothers style,” says Jane, “no matching tuxedos, unfortunately.” 

Early on, The Owenbys’ unique career path was influenced by their desire to always work and be hired as a pair, as well as a shared passion for working in smaller companies and cities. Whilst this philosophy changed over time and larger opportunities arose at big organisations, like their current employer Havas, it was this experience in smaller agencies that taught the husband and wife to be scrappy and utilise limitations as advantages. 

After starting to hang out in 2015, Jane and Jared simply never stopped - becoming partners in matrimony three years later. “We have a similar sense of humour, we’re both quite curious, and we both have a serious need to keep learning and experiencing the world,” says Jared. “We were living and working together and just enjoying life. We were camping a lot, going on these great road trips all over the west [of America] and having a blast. It was kind of obvious what our next step would be.”  

Jane adds, “A lot of people didn’t know we were together in life, but the shared last name makes it pretty obvious now. People have asked if it bothers us, being called ‘The Owenbys’ and not by our individual names - it doesn’t bother me at all. When we’re at our best, we’re functioning as one unit.” 

They describe their dynamic as a “textbook over-thinker” (Jared) with an eager “Leeroy Jenkins” (Jane), who dives headfirst into projects. The louder of the two, Jane says that they complement each other’s creative approaches and often help dig one another out of ruts or reign in the occasional overzealousness. Her husband’s more reserved and mysterious nature is something she admires and says that this contrast in personalities only adds to the pair’s cohesiveness. “Finding a good creative partner is like finding a good trivia partner. You want someone who’s bringing something to the table that you don’t have. Jared will always be that partner for me. He always knows the history answers.”

She continues, “Jared has a great eye for design and draws inspiration from different places than I do. I love to write copy too, which is infinitely helpful when one of us is burned out - we swap places for a bit and usually, that leads to an answer or at least a new road.” 

This push-pull between Jane’s more gung-ho attitude with Jared’s slower, granular analysis, of course, can generate friction - but Mr Owenby says it’s these sparks that light the creative flame underneath them. “I can get frustrated being hurried out of my comfort zone, and she can get frustrated being pulled back, but it always ends up working out. If I didn’t get that shove, I would dawdle and spin my wheels.” 

He continues, “We don’t have too many creative disagreements, we’re both pretty good at knowing when we’re on to something… we’ve just learned to trust one another.”

Outside of the creative realm, disagreements and little bugbears are inevitable in a marriage - for instance, an alleged mayonnaise obsession or an insistence on the greatness of Taylor Swift (not naming any names). However, Jane shares that the couple embrace disagreements and have learned quickly how to live and work harmoniously. Be it a quick walk around the block, Jared’s musical outlets or a true crime excursion for Jane, they’ve nailed the art of knowing when to unplug from work.

“We definitely try to turn off work if it’s getting in the way of enjoying life, or starting to feel like it’s taking over all of our conversations,” says Jane. “That being said, we both really love what we do and find it genuinely fulfilling. We love to watch movies together, dissect albums and recommend books to each other. We’re trying to live an intentionally interesting life - a life that keeps us happy and curious.”

Reminiscing on their careers so far, the pair show just how in sync they are, agreeing that the project they both feel proudest of is ‘Travel INTRAnationally’ for St. Augustine Ponte Vedra Tourism. “It wasn’t groundbreaking by any means, but it was the first time we really got to own something from concept to completion,” says Jared. 

Recalling the process of “standing in a parking lot, soaked to the bone” waiting for a storm to pass, Jane says, “Take me back any day. It was the time of our lives! It was all about teamwork and learning to trust ourselves and the team around us. Production is like summiting a mountain. Everything you’ve worked for has led up to this moment, you only have one chance to get it right, variables be damned, the pressure is on. I love it.”

Recently, The Owenbys had an equally fulfilling - but hopefully drier - production experience with a series of docu-style short films, directed by Lance Oppenheim and shot in three different cities across the States. Working without actors and scripts for the first time, and being separated from each other at times due to the multiple shoot locations and commitments with other projects, the process brought some new creative challenges for the duo. 

“Our trust in each other was invaluable during this time,” says Jane. “I had to remain completely focused on set, while also making sure Jared was able to follow along remotely. We had to make decisions on the spot, even when we weren’t together. This project was a true lesson in collaboration.” She continues, “It was a challenge, working with real people who are giving you their real-life stories. Sometimes, the story they’re telling is incredible and it’s really hard to go back and ask them to retell it in a way that’s going to work for our films…. Even though we’re making ads, we’re making them with real people and for real people. We want everything to feel authentic and human.”

Projects like these are where the pair’s gratitude for each other really shines through - where having the perfect partner and collaborator makes all the difference. Being married, for Jared, has only strengthened their creative output and allows them both to be unfiltered and honest in their communication. “Having a creative partner has made it easy to cut through the clutter and get to the point, and being married has strengthened that,” he says. “There’s no tip-toeing or walking on eggshells - we let each other know what we think. It can be harsh, but when one of us likes something or thinks something is good, we know it’s genuine.”

Agreeing that two heads are definitely better than one in the creative world, Jane derives a great deal of appreciation for the industry from its people - and especially her creative and life partner who knows her process exactly, streamlining their creativity. “Jared can see me getting frustrated before I can, and a single look can say ‘enough with the puns’. It helps to have someone looking out for the work, but especially for you as a person.”

She continues, “It’s infinitely beneficial that we get to spend so much time together. So many script ideas have come as we’re leaving the movie theatre or walking our dog down the street. It’s so rewarding to have someone whose interests overlap with mine, particularly the interests I didn’t feel like I’d shared with anyone before we met. He’ll watch music videos for hours with me and understands when I buy a cookbook just for the design.”

Speaking of their joint interests, The Owenbys’ hobbies go beyond movies, cooking and walking the dog. Just like in the early pre-marriage years of their relationship, they still share a passion for the outdoors and love to go on road trips, camping and backpacking - being “truly disconnected” from the digital world and civilisation. “It’s one of the best bonding experiences,” says Jane, “being in the woods with nobody but each other, learning to make rational decisions when emotions are high. You know you truly trust your partner when you’ll let them belay you.”

Back home, they keep their creative brains engaged with “crafternoons” after raiding an art supply store and coming up with ideas for children’s books and other various projects. They also foster their individual interests (see, they’re not always joined at the hip) which usually involves photography for Jane and songwriting and other musical pursuits for Jared.

“Exposing ourselves to as much as possible means we’re bringing in as much inspiration and influence from the widest variety of sources possible,” says Jane. “Musically, I can’t hold a beat. It’s mesmerising to watch him write songs on the spot, I’m still impressed seven years later. He’s constantly inspiring me, constantly creating.”

Equally inspired by his wife, Jared says that some of the biggest lessons she has taught him are rooted in patience and kindness. “It’s easy to forget that we’re more than just partners. [We] just make sure to take a deep breath and hear each other out and trust each other. This mutual understanding of each other’s creative and emotional sides, and the sharing of interests and inspiration is surely one of the reasons the pair has seen so much success - both inside and outside of work, as Jane concludes:

“We’re a heart and a head. I go with my gut, he goes with reason. My ‘gut’ has landed us in some pretty sketchy roadside motels, but also some great dive bars. When we combine powers, that’s when the magic happens.”

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Havas North America, Wed, 07 Dec 2022 18:06:00 GMT